Chinese rocket that delivered a trio of military surveillance satellites in June disintegrated over Texas on Wednesday. Two defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday that a four-ton component of a Chang Zheng 2D ‘Long March’ rocket punched through the atmosphere over Texas on Wednesday at 17,000 miles per hour and disintegrated.
Military officials have yet to find any rocket stage debris, but USNI News understands the debris field could be miles wide and hundreds of miles long. Prior to its unplanned descent, the stage was a piece of space junk in low earth orbit, according to NORAD satellite tracking data.
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“U.S. Space Command can confirm the People’s Republic of China CZ-2D Rocket Body, SCC# 52910, reentered the Earth’s atmosphere over the southern region of North America at approximately 8:30 pm [Mountain Time] on March 7, 2023,” according to a statement from SPACECOM.
“This was an uncontrolled reentry, meaning it was not steered but rather its orbit decayed and lowered naturally. This type of behavior reinforces the need for better international norms regarding high-risk uncontrolled re-entries.”
CNSA Watcher Posted a Tweet about the matter. You can see the Tweet below.
According to NORAD tracking data, the stage was part of a mission that delivered three military electronic signals surveillance satellites thought to be aimed over the South China Sea, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told USNI News on Thursday.
Where Did The Rocket Enter?
The rocket section, according to the track, entered the atmosphere over West Texas near Marathon before heading northeast between Abilene and Austin. According to the Texas Demographic Center, the debris field is over the state’s least populated counties. As of this posting, Chinese officials had not acknowledged the unplanned reentry.
Officials in the United States are still determining whether any debris has fallen to the ground. China has been chastised for unpredictably releasing space debris into the atmosphere, posing a threat to population centers.
As per the news According to the China National Space Administration, the 135-foot-long Chang Zheng 2D rocket can carry approximately 8,000 pounds of cargo into low-Earth orbit. The Y-64 rocket took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in central China on June 23 and successfully deployed the spy satellites.
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After dropping its payload, the second stage degrades into space junk and can orbit the planet for years before crashing to Earth. According to McDowell, the Y-64 second stage was outfitted with a special sail that would create drag on reentry, preventing it from becoming a hazard to other space traffic.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has criticized China’s lack of care in ensuring the safe landing of its space debris, as well as its refusal to share trajectory data.
The destruction of the Long March rocket comes after the United States destroyed a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina after it spent more than a week overflying the country, raising concerns about the security of domestic airspace.
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